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The Nerdy Way To Learn: Spanish » Patterns » SH to J »

Jerez — Sher­ry

Sherry jerez spanish englishThe Latin sounds for “sh” — and sim­i­lar vari­a­tions, like “ch” and “ss” — be­came a “j” sound in Span­ish.

Thus, the Eng­lish sher­ry is near iden­ti­cal to the Span­ish jerez!

These sh/j sounds were of­ten spelt with a “x” in old Span­ish; and sher­ry it­self is named af­ter the town it first came from, Xeres, which is near Cor­do­va.

Lejos and Leash

We re­cent­ly dis­cussed the re­la­tion­ship be­tween de­jar and re­lax, both from the same Latin root, laxare, from the Latin laxus. Oth­er mod­ern words come from these same roots, let’s see…

In Span­ish, an­oth­er in­ter­est­ing word from the same root is lejos, mean­ing, “far.” This un­der­went the same sh to j tran­si­tion doc­u­ment­ed in the oth­er post. That which is far away, af­ter all, is what we can be re­laxed about, what it’s easy to be loose about.

Some ad­di­tion­al Eng­lish words that come from this same root in­clude:

  • Lease — think about it this way, the Eng­lish say “to let”, that is, to let peo­ple do some­thing with your prop­er­ty, to be re­laxed and dis­tant about it.
  • Lush — the lush man is some­one who is re­laxed about his dili­gence drink­ing.
  • Leash — a leash is pre­cise­ly what you use to try to not let any­thing get re­laxed!

De­jar — Re­lax

The “sh” sound — of­ten rep­re­sent­ed in writ­ing as an “x” — trans­formed in all dif­fer­ent ways to the “j” let­ter (and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing mouth-clear­ing sound, in­flu­enced by Ara­bic) as late Latin turned in­to Span­ish. See lots of ex­am­ples: sherry/jerez, for ex­am­ple.

Here’s an­oth­er: the com­mon Span­ish word, de­jar, mean­ing, “to leave to the side” or “to put down” or to “put away” or to just “let go.”

De­jare comes from the Latin laxare, mean­ing, “to loosen”. From this same root, we get a few Eng­lish words — which did not go through the x‑to‑j trans­for­ma­tion Span­ish did in­clud­ing:

  • Lax –  which ba­si­cal­ly means to loosen up, so it is sim­i­lar con­cep­tu­al­ly!
  • Lax­a­tive — this loosens up the re­mains of your food in­side your body so you can ex­crete, to be eu­phemistic.
  • Re­lax — this is a loos­en­ing of your mus­cles and body and mind as well. Ac­cord­ing to this same pat­tern, we al­so know that re­lax in Span­ish is, re­la­jar.

See more ex­am­ples of this same pat­tern in­clud­ing lejos and leash here.

Jabón — Soap

Soap and the Span­ish for the same, jabón, sound like they have noth­ing in com­mon. But sounds can be de­ceiv­ing.

Both come from the same root: the Latin se­bum, mean­ing “grease”.

How can such dif­fer­ent words be so re­lat­ed? Easy: the Latin s- sound and its vari­a­tions (sh‑, ch- and sy- for ex­am­ple) usu­al­ly be­came, un­der the ara­bic in­flu­ence, a j- sound in Span­ish but re­mained more in­tact in Eng­lish.

Thus, the s‑p of soap maps al­most ex­act­ly to the j‑b of jabón. The “p” and “b” are of­ten eas­i­ly in­ter­changed as well.

Less fun is al­so not­ing that, from the same Latin root, mean­ing “grease” we al­so get se­b­or­rhea (a med­ical con­di­tion of hav­ing too much grease on your skin).

Ju­go and Suck

One of our fa­vorite pat­terns of sound change be­tween Eng­lish and Span­ish is the sh/j shift: un­der the in­flu­ence of ara­bic, many words that had a “s” or “sh” or “sy” or “ch” sound in Latin, start­ed to be pro­nounced with the throat-clear­ing sound and writ­ten with a “j”. See sherry/jerez and chess/ajedrez or syrup/jarabe, for ex­am­ple.

An­oth­er ex­am­ple of this pat­tern is the Span­ish word for “juice”, ju­go. It comes from the Latin suc­cus mean­ing, “juice” (par­tic­u­lar­ly sap, or juice from plants).

From this Latin root suc­cus we al­so get the Eng­lish… suck.

Yes, if it sucks — it is juicy! Lit­er­al­ly!

We can see the map­ping in the s‑c to j‑g map­ping. The “c” and “g” sounds are sim­i­lar and of­ten in­ter­changed.

In­ter­est­ing­ly, in Spain they do not say ju­go to mean “juice”; in­stead, they say… su­co. Su­co, fun­ni­ly enough, al­so comes from the same root of suc­cus. It is just the vari­a­tion that nev­er un­der­went the ara­bic “j” trans­for­ma­tion.

From the same root we al­so get the Eng­lish suc­cu­lent, al­though we do not get the su­per­fi­cial­ly sim­i­lar Eng­lish juice, which comes from the Latin ius, mean­ing, “sauce.”

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